Loop got its start in London in 1986, where leader Robert Hampson allegedly learned four chords on a guitar and promptly began ripping off fellow travelers Spacemen 3.* At least, that’s the prevailing idea. And admittedly, Loop at times—okay, most of the time—does sound an awful lot like those late, great(er) purveyors of psychedelic sneer. But Loop does Spacemen 3’s aggressive, addled hypnosis so damn well it’s hard for me to hold it against them.†
Take “Soundhead,” for example, which starts off the album with a lean, muscular rhythm section pounding out a deliciously repetitive riff, anchoring waves of hissy, trebly, wah’d-out guitars. “Soundhead” is, without qualification, an excellent song, all raw, druggy menace and sneering swagger, a nearly unrivaled opening salvo for any appropriately mean-spirited, drug-addled record. Derivative, perhaps, but rock criticism’s age-old emphasis on originality loses much of its relevance when you’re restraining an overwhelming urge to do an embarrassingly nerdy fist-pump dance at your computer desk. Like, ahem, this guy, right now. I think it’s probably time to turn Heaven’s End down a little bit, here…
I digress. “Soundhead” isn’t the only highlight on Heaven’s End. Many of Loop’s engrossingly circular riffs are bass-driven, with layers of noisy guitar wailing added for that particular mind-melting aggro-texture. It’s a winning recipe, one that Loop exploits to particularly excellent effect on “Straight to Your Heart”:
Yum. Worshippers at the Black Angels’ feet (and I include myself among that rapt throng) can be forgiven for assuming “Straight to Your Heart” is a lost, Directions to See a Ghost-era cut from Austin’s finest.
And not everything sounds entirely Boom-and-Pierce-derived. Loop seemed to be at once more experimental (such as on the title track, with its squalls of guitar and reversed cymbal smashing) and more song-oriented (as on “Head On,” which, if it wasn’t smothered in acid-drenched guitars, would sound positively poppy). On Heaven’s End, Loop was already straying a bit from the template they lifted off of Spacemen 3, a trend they’d continue (hesitatingly) throughout their career.
Loop went on to record two more albums, one of which (1988’s Fade Out) I haven’t heard, and one of which (1990’s A Gilded Eternity) is fucking spectacular, before disbanding in 1991. Hampson continued his Sonic Boom-aping by starting the experimental group Main, which ripped the buzzsaw distorted guitars out of Loop’s song structures and suspended them in murky, cavernous, cacophonous, dark ambient soundscapes. Main was good, but not great (certainly no Experimental Audio Research, the drone project Boom dabbled in after Spacemen 3’s demise), and Heaven’s End remains one of the better “These guys should be paying royalties” albums out there. It’s not original, but it sure does kick ass.
*Amusingly, Sonic Boom of Spacemen 3 has, on-record and with fangs bared, alleged Hampson of doing this very thing. The quote was something like this: “Yeah, they really ripped us off!” Who knew songwriters in the 80s psychedelic underground beefed so hard?
†There’s a bit of George Brigman’s Jungle Rot in the band’s swagger as well, but really, the two referents are the contemporary one (Spacemen 3) and the current one (the Black Angels). Not bad bands to be sonically joined at the hip to, in my humble opinion.